This month the theme is prom. I have enjoyed looking back in history to see how our modern-day prom traditions came about. Today’s featured article is on the history of the tuxedo.
In the 1860s, the increasing popularity of outdoor activities among the British middle and upper classes led to a corresponding increase in the popularity of the casual lounge suit (standard suit in American English) as a country alternative to the more formal day wear that was traditionally worn in town. Men also sought a similar alternative to the extremely formal tailcoat worn every evening. The solution for some country squires was to adapt the casual velvet smoking jacket by making it from the evening tailcoat’s fabric and finishes, thus making it acceptable for “informal” meals at home.
A turning point in the respectability of wearing tailless jackets with dress evening wear was the adoption of the style by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII of the United Kingdom). Henry Poole & Co., tailors of Savile Row, have an undated receipt for a blue silk smoking jacket ordered for the future monarch to wear to informal dinner parties. (Poole & Co. have variously claimed dates of 1860 and 1865 for the receipt.) By 1885, the Prince was ordering a “tailless dinner jacket” from the firm. Click here to see how the new style of suit jacket came to this country and how it eventually became used at proms.